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Clint Frazier ducks the media. Do you care?

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Clint Frazier had a bad night in right field in the Yankees’ loss to the Red Sox. He let an Eduardo Núñez grounder skip past him. He looked close to lost on a ball that came between him and second baseman D.J. LeMahieu. He got a bad break on an Andrew Benintendi liner to right, tried to dive for it and came up short. He later misplayed a ball off the bat of Michael Chavis, letting it get past him, turning it into a triple as he tried to play it on a bounce.

Fraizer wasn’t the only reason the Yankees lost last night, but he was one of the reasons and, understandably, was someone the press wanted to talk to after the game. Except he didn’t want to talk:

Frazier ducked the media after looking lost in right field in a 8-5 loss to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

After journalists and a few cameramen waited for more than a half-hour for the 24-year-old to emerge from a media-restricted area in the clubhouse, a team spokesman said Frazier “is not talking.”

Anyone who has paid attention to how the baseball media — particularly the New York media — works over the years knows what happened next. A series of tweets, articles and columns about how Frazier’s ducking the media was far, far worse than his misplays. About how he was “unaccountable” and about how he has angered his teammates by making them answer for him. More than one story I read this morning is couched in terms of “what is to be done with Clint Frazier?” with trading him or benching him on the table, as if he hasn’t been a big reason the Yankees have weathered all of their early season injuries. His failure to talk to the press is the far, far, far, far bigger story today than the game. And I could add a few “fars” and link more stories than I just did. Trust me, though, when I say that, among the media, Frazier’s decision not to talk to the media was the story of the night and remains the story this morning.

We’ve covered this ground many times in the past. And I get why this is a story every time it comes up. Among other reasons:

  • The media wants to talk to Frazier. Totally understandable. His play was probably, from the Yankees’ perspective, the takeaway of the game and it makes total sense that the press would like some comments from him. They have a job to do and he is making it harder for them to do it;
  • Players don’t like being asked questions about their own mistakes as it is, so when you’re asked to talk about someone else’s — and you know the press sought comment about Frazier’s play from others — it’s particularly galling. There’s a whole culture of “accountability” at work in clubhouses where people are expected to answer for themselves and when someone doesn’t, others get grumpy.

I have a question, though: do you, as fans, care?

And when I ask that, I mean beyond the sense of “well, if his teammates are mad at him it might cause trouble down the line.” Let’s leave that as granted, and watch in the future if Frazier becomes a problem (and allow for the possibility that they do not care and it does not become a problem). I also don’t count “well, now that the media is mad it’s a distraction” talk because that itself is a media-driven thing/self-fulfilling prophecy. What I want to know is if you care that Frazier ducked the press last night beyond what it means as a potential harbinger of bad things to come or as a media-driven thing.

Specifically, is there anything Frazier could say about those plays that would change them or make then more understandable? He’s a sub-par defender who had a sub-par defensive night. What sort of cliche-driven quotes — and you know that’s what they’d be because that’s what they always are — would constitute “accountability” for that? How does “had a bad game out there; really let down the ball club; have to get back at it tomorrow and try harder” constitute actual accountability? How does it make him any better of a right fielder?

Similarly, beyond the journalistic convention — you gotta get that quote — is there anything preventing the press from writing about Frazier’s night absent those quotes? What happened was as plain as day. If anything, not having those quotes seems like an opportunity for a good writer more than it seems like a problem. Indeed, sometimes not getting to talk to your subject is a gift. There are conventions that one gets quotes, but there’s no law that says you have to. Indeed, some of the sameness we see in baseball writing goes away when writers are unshackled from convention. That’s particularly the case with some of the New York writers. Those guys are pithy as hell when they freelance a bit. Also worth noting that the whole thing does not become a “distraction” if the press does not continue to ask other players about Frazier’s play on Sunday.

I dunno. I feel like it doesn’t matter all that much in an absolute sense if Frazier or anyone else talks to the press. It’s a ballgame, not astrophysics. The super interesting, expert-level insight tends we get from ballplayers tend to come during those deep-dive features in which a pitcher talks about his philosophy or the life experiences and personality of a player away from the clubhouse gives us insight into his game. The relationships cultivated between reporter and subject which are given some space and time to breathe are way better than the three minutes around the locker after a screwup.

It does give everyone a news cycle’s worth of material, though. But again: that’s for us in the press. Does Frazier not talking after the game matter to you at all?

 

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”